• Jonni Parsons

Do Hashtags Really Lead To More Engagement?

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

If you’re on social media, you've probably seen hashtags floating around. They made their debut on Twitter in 2007 and they have now sneaked their way into every other platform. Even our grandparents are asking what they mean and they know what they are now, too. So the question is not if you know what hashtags are, the question is...

Do they really work?

Well, the answer depends on which platform we want to talk about. For now... let's cover the obvious one. Instagram.

Adding hashtags to your Instagram posts have probably become second-nature to you at this point, if you are a grammer. I can even guess that when you first started using Instagram in 2010, the amount of hashtags you used may have been longer than the actual caption. It's embarrassing now to look back at our old posts but everybody did it. For example, if you posted a picture of the beach, your hashtags probably included #Beach #Sand #Ocean #Water #Blue #Shells #HappyPlace #Swim, and all other unnecessary tags.

We didn't understand their power or purpose. We just threw them on a photo so we can keep up with our culture and fit in well. The same way we would go on Facebook and “poke” someone, we would go on Instagram and add an abundance of hashtags.With marketing changing quickly, getting our heads wrapped around this neat little tool is a must. We can't just do things in this business without understanding what we are doing and why we are doing it.

The use of hashtags on Instagram is actually a way to tag a key phrase or word so that when you click on it you can see all other related posts. In a sense, it “ties” together a community. If you go on Instagram and search #AmericanIdol- you’ll most likely see posts from the American Idol Instagram and other pages as well. It’s a way to simply search a keyword and see related posts.

Because of this, many people have been refraining from posting irrelevant or silly hashtags. So instead of posting #Beach #Sand #Blue, they might instead post a hashtag with the name of the beach that way they can see what else is going on in the area or who else is posting about that beach. There is a two-way communication system with this. Now you can click on your own hashtag and who knows, maybe you’ll see a post from a yoga instructor and learn that she teaches yoga at that beach on Sunday mornings. You might also see a surf company offering their services. On the flip side, lets say the beach is a state park, they most likely have someone monitoring their social media. That person is most likely looking to see who is posting about the beach, and they can monitor this through the hashtags we use, because it ties them all together.

So why should you be taking hashtag strategy into consideration?

Because of brand recognition. Because it gets you seen. Because you're missing a huge market if you don't.

Let me explain...

Hashtags act as a branding technique. They enable you to reach your target audience and likewise makes it easier for people to find you.

When using a hashtag, you have a creative aspect to your campaign or post. People will be more likely to search the hashtag and see what else is tied to it. *Side note...You can monitor who is posting and interacting with the hashtags.

By using different social media management websites, you can see who is interacting with your hashtag and how much “buzz” it is receiving (check out Social Studio or Sprout Social to track your social media management).

Hashtags can be fun and creative. But they are so much more than that. They bring your posts to life and help you receive much more attention than many people realize. Now because you have included a hashtag, anyone who looks it up or clicks on it will be brought to a whole community of conversation and posts related to what you are posting. You make a name for yourself by using them.

Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% engagement increase than those who don't.

So how do you make a "good" hashtag?

Throwing some hashtags onto a picture seems like a very simple task to most, but it does pay to be strategic. Identifying the right hashtags to use for your brand would make the most sense. I suggest using Tailwind Hashtag Finder Tool if you want to get fancy with it, but if you want to have a quick research session, just type in a topic on the search bar of Instagram, click the "tags" tab, and see the other related hashtags in that specific niche, then use those!

There are two types of hashtags... Branded hashtags and Community hashtags. Branded hashtags are specific to your company. They may contain the company name or a word from their specific campaign. A benefit of branded hashtags is that it could be directly tied back to your company and helps you measure the success of a campaign. Community hashtags on the other hand are more general. Like #petitejoys or #ootd. They are widely used and people use those to get found more.

Are there any ones I shouldn't use?

While hashtags absolutely increase your reach on Instagram, there’s no point using ones that aren’t relevant to your post. The Instagram app is getting smarter, and will pick up on people using consistently spammy or irrelevant hashtags. Try to avoid ‘quick fix’ Instagram hashtags that specifically ask people to follow you, such as #follow4follow and #like4like – they might work for a few moments, but these followers are unlikely to engage with your content.

Some Tips:

Utilize Hashtags In Your Stories:

By including relevant hashtags in your Stories, you’re publicizing it to a lot more people. I recommend tagging your location because that gets me the most views!

Put Hashtags In Your Bio:

In 2018, Instagram made it easy to include hashtags in your bio. This enables you to tell more people about who you are and get people to utilize your hashtag as well.

Don't Stick With Popular Hashtags:

Stay away from hashtags that have millions of people using them. Your post will just get lost in a sea of the popular crowd. Use hashtags that have a smaller following and it will be much easier to be seen.

First Comment:

Be the first one to comment on your Instagram post with the hashtags. Don't include all of your tags in the caption because that just looks messy!

Whether you’re just starting out with Instagram marketing, or you’re looking to fine-tune your strategy with Instagram hashtags, I hope this resource helped you a bit!